Minnesota’s Canada goose population is lower by some measures than a year ago, but the birds had a productive breeding season and the state’s leading waterfowl biologist sees promise for early season goose hunters.
The 15-day hunt opens next Sunday with a bag limit of five.
“My impression is that the numbers have been relatively stable for a decade,” said Steve Cordts, waterfowl staff specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji.
The DNR formerly conducted a separate, statewide goose survey by helicopter. One of the DNR’s wildlife management goals then was to maintain a resident breeding population of 250,000 geese. In many years, the population was estimated at 300,000 or more.
Two years ago, the DNR dropped the statewide count and has been tracking goose numbers as part of a larger May waterfowl survey that covers 39% of the state. Cordts said it’s not perfect but is more than adequate to monitor Canada geese.
“We manage by trends,” he said.
This year’s survey estimated the population of Minnesota Canada geese at 110,410, down from the previous year.
Given variables related to survey visibility and other adjustments related to the new survey method, Cordts wasn’t alarmed. In 2018, a late winter storm thwarted production of Canada geese. This year, the birds rebounded with a late but average-sized hatch.
By now, Cordts said, those newborns have taken flight and should be around. He said he hasn’t been fielding too many complaints about overall shortages of honkers, only that some of them go missing in September when it’s time to hunt.
He said that Minnesota is no longer overrun with Canada geese the way it was in the 1980s. But there are still too many for some people’s liking. The DNR continues to issue lots of special hunting permits to control depredation caused by flocks in farming areas.
“In general, we’re not in a bad place,’’ Cordts said.